Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When the lorry won't fit

Joe went off to work early this morning leaving me with the prospect of a delivery of new chairs for the sitting room. Delightful, I know, especially as they were bought in a sale and so were a good price. We got the present chairs second hand, along with a settee that sagged into decrepitude some years ago. However deliveries to our house are not as simple as a lorry turning up and men putting your new furniture into its room.

First problem was whether the chairs would fit through the less-than-standard-width door. When we moved here we brought stuff in via the wider door to the courtyard, but there's a glasshouse tacked on there now. So, after several somewhat optimistic measurings Joe took the sitting-room door off its hinges as a precaution. I had my fingers crossed but was in a state of some anxiety.

When the courier phoned for directions I asked what size lorry he was in.

'Big,' he said. 'Very big.' Oh dear. Anxiety turned acute. I couldn't eat breakfast at all. Walking the dogs (dog actually. Small one wouldn't come. It was raining) I tried to reassure myself about the turn in the road and the flat bridge.

Didn't work.

I phoned my friend Dominic, who lives up the road and has a white van, on the off-chance he might be in and available.

'Dominic I'm in a fix. Any chance you could give me a hand. We could do a barter with the work on the website I'm doing for you.'

He agreed, oh joy.

I rang the couriers, now on their way from Galway and already up the road in Kilanena.

'Is your lorry really big? I mean, really really big?'

'It's very big.'

'I'll meet you by the two-storey stone house,' I said.

Just as well. I'd say the lads wouldn't have even tried. They'd have stalled at the first hurdle of the tiny turn off the main road. Not worth their while to risk it. And what if they'd got stuck? And then there's the difficulty of turning when they got here.

So the chairs arrived. They were in boxes with the backs having to be slotted on after. No need for the door-off-the hinges business after all.

I've put one of them together already and had a coffee sitting in it with my feet up. For they're recliners! A chance thing, not what we went looking for, but what comfort. What luxury.

Winter water and camper van

Winter levels in Drumsna. As we pulled up in the van the ducks and swans came madly swimming. They must miss the summer scraps provided by boaters. The river was running fast and high and looked cold. A recurring fantasy (though that sounds like something I want to do) had me falling in fully clothed.

We stayed in Drumsna for the night in winds that swooped around our roof and shook us in our beds. I had to work at convincing myself the van wouldn't be blown into the river. This is all January stuff I think. The morbid thoughts of too long without sunshine.

We were checking on the boat, poor neglected thing, in Albert Marina. But of course she was perfectly well. Her covers are holding up beautifully, and there are people to keep an eye on her - thank you James, if you read this. A major and excellent effect of the all-over cover is that condensation, and therefore mould, seems to be minimal. Just as well, as the missing duvet was still on board along with the memory-foam mattress toppers, left just in case we went back for a last cruise.

Marinas are empty places at this time of year, as are most of the public harbours. But there's a different feel with the lengthening days to the dark emptiness of November. On board Winter Solstice we were thinking of jobs to do for the season to come. Joe measured up for a new fridge - the old one gave up the ghost on the day before we pulled into Albert Marina last September. Amazingly good timing. A new hob is waiting to be installed too. The old one still worked, but only just. The grill was working half time, one side only functioning, and we use that a lot - gluten-free bread has to be toasted to make it edible.

On Saturday night we went to our friend Rachel's for dinner, on board her boat in Athlone. But first we went to our favourite spot beside the lock. This is where we stop whether in van or boat, walking up to the steep streets of what is optimistically, but also truthfully, called the Left Bank.

The water was over the jetty below the lock.

We're starting to plan the summer cruise. Will it be the Barrow, or along the Royal Canal with Rachel to Dublin and the Tall Ships. Excitement flutters just below the surface.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Parakeets and storm-thrashed seas

 We're stuck in England in this January storm. We were supposed to return to Ireland today on the Irish Ferries' Jonathan Swift, the fast ferry, but it was cancelled. The big cruise ship was due to sail, and we packed up the car last night ready to head off this morning to Anglesey. I bought Stugeron sea sickness pills. But the rain was lashing the window when I woke and the trees are bent double. We have the dogs with us, and the thought of the poor things stuck below in the car in a gale-ridden sea (not to mention ourselves surrounded by other peoples' vomit, and maybe even our own) was enough to change to tomorrow's sailing. And I see the 14.10 cruise ship is delayed. So good decision I think.

We were in London last week visiting friends and family. As we drove through the suburbs I saw a flock of birds fly over.
'Good grief,' I said to Joe. 'I could swear that was a flock of parrots.' Later, in Stanmore in North West London, after dinner and conversation til the wee hours the night before with friends from our university days, I was taking the air in the garden. There are woods behind the house with squirrels, jackdaws, jays and a bird with a very non-native call. It was a ring-neck parakeet. They're beautiful birds and they've colonised the city.

Three appeared as we ate breakfast. And apparently there are 30,000 of them across London. 30,000! In spite of their exotic I-live-in-the-tropics looks they can survive our winters very well as they come from the foot hills of the Himalayas. They'd probably thrive in the west of Ireland too, and what a smart patriotic green they wear.